It appears Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold might not be the only one in recent memory to go directly from the Division III ranks straight to Division I football.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The University of St. Thomas is going full steam ahead with the rare move up two divisions. The Tommies are hoping to join the Summit League for most of their sports if they get the necessary approvals and will likely become an FCS football team at the same time with a conference affiliation still to be determined.
Now you may ask what prompted such a move in the first place and for those without a clear memory of events from this past spring, St. Thomas was actually at the center of a firestorm after the school was kicked out for being too good at sports by the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). While they will remain a part of the league until the 2021 school year wraps up, their future after that has been up for some debate.
“We believe St. Thomas can be a viable Division I program, and we want them in our league,” Summit League commissioner Tom Douple told the paper. “We’re committed to working with them and working with the NCAA to try to solve this. We knew this was going to be a hard process, but we think it’s a good battle to fight.”
One of the biggest issues is that nobody has really done the leap from D3 to D1 and certainly no school in the time frame St. Thomas is looking at. There is a current 12 year (yes a dozen years) process mandated by the NCAA to make the transition, just like there is a similar one (on a shorter timeframe) to go from the FCS ranks to the FBS level that programs such as Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina have gone through in the recent past.
“[The NCAA] is working right now through a couple of different models of how to address this,” athletic director Phil Esten told the Tribune. “The good news is, nobody has yet said no. And they’re trying to find a way to create a [direct] pathway.
“Whether that’s through new legislation, amended legislation, some kind of an appeal process, I don’t know. Those are all the things that hopefully we’ll learn after further deliberations in January, at the [NCAA] convention.”
A spokesperson for the NCAA said they “support in concept’’ the idea of St. Thomas’ quick move but obviously there’s still plenty of moving parts to sort out. The hope for many is that some sort of resolution can get done by next April to allow the university and others to map out how things will go.
Either way, being too good at sports really is quite the headache nobody expected for the tiny university in Minnesota.